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Ryan Zimmerman Rumors
Tyler Stubblefield was stuck at low-A ball last year for the Padres at age 25. This year, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock, he played a key role in recommending the team’s first-round draft choice, N.C. State shortstop Trea Turner, as San Diego’s area scout for eastern George and North and South Carolina.
Here’s the latest from the National League:
- It is time for the Dodgers to initiate a shake-up, opines Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link). While the team undeniably has talented pieces, they have not fit together well, says Olney, who recommends that the team consider bringing up top prospect Joc Pederson to play center and installing the defense-first Erisbel Arruebarrena at short. Of course, those moves would have repercussions involving key veterans Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez, among others, but Olney says that dramatic action may be necessary with the club still sitting well back of the Giants in the NL West.
- The Brewers do not seem like a good fit for Kendrys Morales, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy writes on Twitter. McCalvy says that two key questions — Morales’s ability to handle first and the team’s ability to fit him in the payroll — make a signing unlikely.
- Ryan Zimmerman says that he is not sure that he will ever return full-time to third base for the Nationals, as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. “I don’t know if I’m the best option over there anymore,” he said. “I’ve always said I’ll play until someone is better than me, or I’m not the best option at that position.” It will be fascinating to see how the Nats proceed when Bryce Harper returns, which is expected to occur around the turn of the month. While the team would have several options heading into 2015 — Zimmerman could stay in left and the team could deal Denard Span, or he could move to first if Adam LaRoche leaves town — the mid-season calculus is even more complicated. It seems hard to imagine that the team would leave second base in the hands of Danny Espinosa while taking away significant at-bats from any of the other players just mentioned. It seems at least possible that the Nationals could explore some creative trade possibilities to right-size the everyday lineup.
- Pirates righty Duke Welker underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday, reports Tom Singer of MLB.com (via Twitter). The towering 28-year-old was the player to be named later in last year’s Justin Morneau deal, but later returned to Pittsburgh in exchange for lefty Kris Johnson.
There was a great story today in San Diego, as former Astros outfielder Jason Lane re-emerged onto a big league diamond with the Padres after last appearing in 2007. Now, the 37-year-old is a pitcher, and his first-ever MLB relief outing was a good one: ten up, ten down. Tyler Kepner of the New York Times recently profiled Lane and his now-consummate attempt at a return to the bigs.
Here’s the latest out of the National League:
- The Diamondbacks placed middle infielder Cliff Pennington on the DL and recalled young shortstop Didi Gregorius to take his active roster spot, the club announced via press release. Arizona’s mix of middle infielders — including those two players, current MLB starters Aaron Hill and Chris Owings, and prospect Nick Ahmed — has often been discussed as a source of depth from which the team could trade. For Gregorius, who entered the year with 1.033 days of MLB service, staying on the active roster for most of the remaining 115 days of the season could position him for an eventual Super Two candidacy.
- Meanwhile, the D’backs learned that they would be without one of their top pitching prospects for the rest of the season, as Jose Martinez will need surgery for a stress fracture in his right elbow, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter). Baseball America rated Martinez as the team’s sixth-best prospect heading into the year, saying that he throws a mid-90s heater and outstanding power curve. Given his last name, Dominican heritage, and slight build, BA notes that comparisons to Pedro Martinez and Carlos Martinez are inevitable.
- The Marlins‘ recent series of transactions are a sad reflection on owner Jeffrey Loria, opines Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. Even putting aside the question whether it made sense for Miami to target the relievers it did (Bryan Morris and Kevin Gregg), Cameron says that there is no reason the team couldn’t have found the money without giving up a significant future asset in the 39th overall choice in the upcoming draft.
- A fire sale is looming for the Phillies, writes Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, who says that the club has far too many holes to do anything but sell. Zolecki raises the point that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has seemingly done rather poorly in generating returns when it has dealt veterans in the past. Having shipped out players like Cliff Lee, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, Jim Thome, Michael Young, and Joe Blanton in recent years, the return has been headlined by names such as Phillippe Aumont, Tommy Joseph, and Ethan Martin.
- Ryan Zimmerman had a strong game in an interesting return to the Nationals tonight, appearing comfortable in his first ever appearance in left field and hitting the ball hard several times. As Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports, Zimmerman willingly moved off of his customary hot corner without complaint. “Our window is now,” he said. “This team’s good enough to win a World Series, I think. But you just never know. Realistically, we’re only going to be together for this year and next year.” Those comment seemed related, in particular, to the contractual status of Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann, each of whom is set to reach free agency after 2015. “Guys like Desi, guys like Jordan — I don’t doubt that they want to stay here,” he said, “but baseball’s a business. You never know.”
As previously reported, before hiring Tony LaRussa, the Diamondbacks considered other candidates to slot in atop the club’s baseball operations structure or to take over directly for Kevin Towers as general manager. One candidate was former Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who notes that it is likely (but not certain) that Beinfest would have slotted into the GM role. Arizona also spoke with Braves advisor John Hart, says Rosenthal, though that was purely for purposes of dispensing advice.
Here’s more from Arizona and the rest of the National League:
- The April 2012 shoulder injury to then-Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young had widespread ramifications both for player and club, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Young, who had been off to a hot start that season, has never really been the same since. And the injury also led to then-teammate Justin Upton playing through a thumb injury. Upton’s step back that year, which could well have been injury-related, ultimately played a role in his departure, Piecoro observes.
- If Young’s current team — the Mets – want to improve its offensive performance, the club needs to boost its spending, opines ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required). With David Wright and Curtis Granderson eating up much of the team’s payroll space at its current spending levels, which reduces the team’s flexibility to add talent creatively without increasing its budget.
- Confirming recent suggestions, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Nationals are planning to rotate Ryan Zimmerman between third, first, and left field when he returns from the DL. In addition to increasing the club’s ability to optimize the deployment of its position players, Washington hopes that Zimmerman’s future value to the team will see a boost from increased flexibility. The one-time stalwart at the hot corner, who has seen his defensive performance wane with shoulder issues, is in the first year of a six-year, $100MM extension that was agreed to before the 2012 season.
- Nationals prospect Matt Purke will undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (via Twitter). The 23-year-old lefty has largely disappointed since the Nats gave him a $4.15MM bonus in 2011 to sign out of TCU. As Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com notes on Twitter, Purke — who signed a big league deal — will be out of options by the time he recovers from the procedure.
The Nationals raised some eyebrows recently by having injured third baseman Ryan Zimmerman work out in left field (as noted yesterday by the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore), though many on the coaching staff were quick to tell Kilgore that Zimmerman was merely getting some conditioning work. In a second piece from Kilgore last night, Zimmerman essentially said the same, noting that he cannot take grounders during batting practice at this point and the outfield worked helped him “from going crazy.” Manager Matt Williams, however, wouldn’t rule out using Zimmerman in the outfield, though he sounded more comfortable with the longtime third baseman as an emergency option there: “I think he’s a wonderful athlete and if we have a pinch late in a game where we have nobody left and he’s got to play left field, or right field or center field, he could do it.”
Here’s more from the NL East…
- The next 20 games could determine the Phillies‘ course of action this summer, writes CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. The Phils have a stretch of 20 games in 20 days beginning tonight, and 11 of those contests come against divisional opponents. If the team fares well in this stretch, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. may well push the decision off for a few weeks, but Salisbury implies that a particularly poor showing could push the Phillies into sell mode.
- Salisbury’s colleague, Corey Seidman, points out that fans can’t pin the team’s 19-22 record on the aging core. Ryan Howard is on pace for 28 homers, Chase Utley has played like an MVP candidate thus far, Jimmy Rollins has a career-high .359 OBP, Carlos Ruiz‘s OBP sits at .396 and Marlon Byrd has hit very well. Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett and Jonathan Papelbon have all turned in solid ERA marks also, he adds. However, the team has received next to no production from Ben Revere and Domonic Brown, the bullpen has struggled and the bench has combined to hit .181 with four homers thus far.
- Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald found the Marlins‘ recent signing of Miguel Tejada a bit puzzling, so he spoke with VP of player development Marty Scott about the deal. Scott said the signing was made for depth purposes and that Tejada impressed both offensively and defensively in private workouts. “I don’t want something to happen at the big-league level where we don’t have someone we know who can come up and do the job,” said Scott before calling Tejada a “safety valve.”
- From that same piece, Spencer reports that the Marlins are currently listing Thursday’s starter at Triple-A as “TBA,” and that spot is very likely to be filled by top prospect Andrew Heaney, who has dominated Double-A Jacksonville. If all goes well, says Spencer, Heaney could be with the Fish in early June.
TUESDAY: Zimmerman will not need surgery, which is good news for the long term but does not shorten his timetable to return, Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com reports on Twitter.
SATURDAY: Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has fractured his right thumb and will miss four to six weeks, Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com tweets. Zimmerman left tonight's matchup with the Braves early after injuring the thumb.
The development is a significant blow for the Nationals. Zimmerman was one of the majors' top hitters in the early going, posting a Herculean .355/.382/.613 line in nine games.
Fortunately, the Nats have several talented infielders on hand who should be able to help carry the team in Zimmerman's absence. Anthony Rendon appears likely to shift from second to third, his natural position, as a replacement, while Danny Espinosa could be adequate as a temporary solution at the keystone. Espinosa struggled mightily in 2013, but he's off to a hot start for the Nats this season, triple-slashing .294/.368/.471.
Looking further ahead, the injury may have implications for the third baseman's ability to stay healthy long-term. Zimmerman has managed 145 and 147 games in the previous two seasons, but he's locked into a deal through 2019 and has missed significant time in the past. Zimmerman's shoulder was described as "arthritic," then "degenerative" by manager Matt Williams in recent interviews, and despite 2012 surgery, completing the long throws across the diamond has been a struggle at times. Moving Zimmerman to first base to try and insulate him from nagging injuries could be one solution, but Adam LaRoche occupies that position for the Nationals at present.
Ryan Zimmerman's throwing issues have been well documented over the past year or so, and the longtime National underwent an MRI this weekend that revealed no structural damage to his throwing shoulder (via the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore). However, manager Matt Williams said in a radio interview with CBS Sports last night that Zimmerman is dealing with an arthritic shoulder — hardly good news for the Nationals as Zimmerman plays out the first year of a six-year, $100MM extension.
Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington looks at what the situation means for Zimmerman's future and what it means for the future of Adam LaRoche, who is off to a hot start in the second year of a two-year, $24MM contract. LaRoche's deal contains a mutual option for a third year, but as Zuckerman points out, Zimmerman's throwing issues essentially preclude the Nationals from being able to exercise that option, regardless of LaRoche's season. Zimmerman already has two throwing errors on the season against six assists throwing the ball to first base, according to Baseball-Reference.com (not exactly an acceptable ratio).
Some might be quick to say that the solution is a trade of LaRoche to open up first base for Zimmerman, but Zuckerman writes that such a move isn't simple for a number of reasons. LaRoche is 34 years old and coming off perhaps the worst full season of his career, and teams know that the Nationals would be highly motivated to trade him, thereby giving GM Mike Rizzo less leverage. On top of that, Zimmerman has little experience at first base, making a smooth transition anything but a safe assumption.
In addition to Zuckerman's rationale (which is sound), LaRoche's $12MM salary and $2MM option buyout would be detrimental in trade talks, and there's also the simple fact that strengthening their defense by trading him could also weaken the lineup and deplete the team's infield depth. In that scenario, Anthony Rendon would likely switch to his natural position of third base, with Danny Espinosa perhaps getting a second chance to prove himself as an everyday second baseman in the Major Leagues. That's an experiment that could pan out, and were the Nationals still a cellar-dwelling entity, it wouldnt be as much of an issue. However, this team is built to contend right now, and such a drastic shuffle of their infield doesn't seem practical with the season underway.
Zuckerman writes that for the remainder of the season, it's difficult to dream up a scenario where Zimmerman doesn't spend the majority of his time at third base. He can be shielded from the field by DHing in American League parks and occasionally spelling LaRoche at first base (I would think that LaRoche could benefit from time away from tough left-handed pitchers). However, the team has less long-term flexibility to build its lineup and could be without a place to put top prospect Matt Skole (Baseball America has pegged his range at third base as inadequate) if Zimmerman is limited to first base duties for the remainder of his contract.
As the clock ticks down to the start of a new year across North America, here's hoping that all of MLBTR's readers have a safe and happy end to 2013. Here are a few notes from the National League to round out the 2013 hot stove season:
- Though Ryan Zimmerman will begin to see some time at first base in Spring Training, he remains entrenched at the hot corner, writes MASNsports.com's Pete Kerzel. But Anthony Rendon is the organization's only other current big league option with a real track record at third, and he is widely expected to serve as the club's regular second baseman. In the immediate term, Kerzel says that the Nats may look to trade or claim a player who can back up at third. But looking into the future, the expiration of first baseman Adam LaRoche's deal after 2014 (assuming his mutual option is not exercised) will likely require Washington to make more definitive moves towards settling its infield alignment.
- Kendrys Morales could make some "theoretical" sense for the Pirates on a "very team-friendly contract," writes ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required). But, says Olney, the club would be loath to part with its first round pick and the slot money that comes with it. I recently took a look at the market for Morales, assuming that an NL team would not be willing to sign him without a DH slot to park his bat. If clubs believe that he could handle a substantial workload at first, however, he may find additional suitors.
- Olney ranks the Bucs as the tenth best team in baseball entering the new year. With a solid roster already in place, Olney posits that the club may wait until next year to make significant new additions. Of course, one major unresolved situation in Pittsburgh is the status of starter A.J. Burnett, who could still be brought back to provide a major boost to the club's rotation in 2014.
The Braves will promote top prospect Christian Bethancourt today, according to Tom Hart of FOX Sports in Atlanta (Twitter link). The 22-year-old catcher hit .277/.305/.436 at Double-A Mississippi this season. While those numbers don't look tremendously impressive, Bethancourt turned it on after a slow start, batting .300/.339/.521 with 11 homers from June 13 on. He currently ranks as the Braves' No. 3 prospect and the fifth-best catching prospect in baseball in the eyes of MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Here's more on Bethancourt and the rest of the NL East…
- MLB.com's Mark Bowman tweets that Bethancourt's promotion will allow him to get acquainted with the Majors, which is a good thing, as it's likely that he or Evan Gattis will be the Braves' starting catcher in 2014. In doing so, Bowman implies that Brian McCann is likely to sign elsewhere as a free agent. That thought has been echoed by others in recent weeks, including David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- The Mets will stall Ruben Tejada's promotion back to the Majors, writes Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, and in doing so, they will delay his free agency until after the 2017 season instead of the 2016 season. Tejada hasn't exactly torn the cover off the ball of late, as he's batted just .275/.324/.364 from July through Sept. 2 at Triple-A Las Vegas — one of the most hitter-friendly environments in all of professional baseball.
- Ryan Zimmerman has regained confidence in his throwing and believes he can continue to play third base for the Nationals, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Zimmerman concedes that he doubted his future at the hot corner earlier in the season. He tells Kilgore that his shoulder injuries in 2012 wore his right arm down to the point where he couldn't lift it above his head, causing him to develop bad throwing habits. He had surgery to repair the shoulder last October, but breaking those poor habits and rebuilding the strength in his arm has been a slow process, Zimmerman says. Ultimately, the decision on when to move to first won't be Zimmerman's, Kilgore writes. The team could even move Adam LaRoche this winter and make the switch in 2014.
While first baseman Freddie Freeman has had an outstanding campaign for the Braves, Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that shortstop Andrelton Simmons has been the team's most valuable contributor. While Fangraphs values the two at the same level in terms of WAR, notes Bradley, Baseball Reference pegs Simmons as worth over a win more than Freeman. Regardless, the team will control both players at reasonable rates for the foreseeable future, with Freeman set to reach arbitration for the first time next year and Simmons not arb-eligible until 2016. Here are a few notes from around the rest of the National League East:
- The Esmailyn Gonzalez saga is not yet over for the Nationals, reports the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore. In a lawsuit against the team's insurance company, the Nats have leveled the charge that former big-leaguer Jose Rijo received a $300k kick-back from the ill-fated $1.4MM signing bonus given to the supposedly 16-year-old Gonzalez (who, it was later learned, was actually four years older and named Carlos David Alvarez Lugo).
- More importantly for the team going forward is the long-term defensive position of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Once a plus fielder, Zimmerman's throwing has deteriorated to the point that UZR rates him at a troubling 15 runs below average thus far in 2013. With even manager Davey Johnson implying that Zimmerman's "mental" issues could force a move across the diamond, MLB.com's Bill Ladson says he thinks the club could make the shift during the coming off-season.
- In addition to dampening the value of Zimmerman's long-term extension, of course, such a move would have wide-ranging considerations and repercussions for the Nats. In addition to raising the question of what would happen with first baseman Adam LaRoche, who is under contract for next season, the team would have to move rookie Anthony Rendon back to his natural position at third. The resulting void at second would presumably be filled by a free agent or one of the team's less-than-certain internal options (including Danny Espinosa, Steve Lombardozzi, and Jeff Kobernus).
- Roy Halladay could be starting for the Phillies sooner than expected, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that, if all goes well, Halladay could only take two rehab starts in the minors before rejoining the big club. With Halladay set to become a free agent, it will be fascinating to see how he bounces back from shoulder surgery (and generally poor results over 2012-13) before hitting the open market.
- If and when apparent Cuban defector Jose Dariel Abreu is made a free agent, he is expected to command a substantial contract from a MLB club. Based on scouting reports and other contracts given to international free agents, ESPN's Jim Bowden suggests that the big slugger could land a deal in the six-year, $54MM range. (For a detailed discussion of Abreu's prospect value, check out this recent podcast from Baseball America's Ben Badler and John Manuel.)
- As an "early guess," Bowden places the Marlins atop the list of Abreu pursuers. Reasoning that the club would be willing to overpay for a Cuban star after missing out on Yoenis Cespedes, Bowden writes that Miami is "expected to go all out on Abreu."
- In addition to a host of other possible landing spots, Bowden says that the Nationals could also be in on Abreu. He opines that the club would not find it difficult to deal first baseman Adam LaRoche to clear a spot.
Earlier this week, we learned that the Nationals' acquisition of Denard Span indirectly stemmed from maneuverings involving the Upton brothers. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports explained that the Nats made a strong attempt to deal for Justin Upton early in the offseason and when they realized that they couldn't land him, they refocused on finding a left-handed hitting center fielder who could bat leadoff. However, they didn't get their man on the open market after B.J. Upton's lucrative five-year, $75MM deal scared them away from free agents. Here's the latest out of Washington..
- General Manager Mike Rizzo says it's too soon to discuss a contract extension for Bryce Harper, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Rizzo doesn't feel compelled to work on a new deal for Harper just yet since he is a "zero plus" player, meaning that he has less than one full year of service time under his belt.
- While Ryan Zimmerman's throwing struggles have led some pundits to ask if the Nationals need to consider other options at third, Rizzo shot that notion down earlier today, writes Amanda Comak of the Washington Times. “The Nationals do not need a new third baseman,” the GM said. “We’ve got one of the best, if not the best, third basemen in all of baseball. We love the guy. He’s ours. And I’m glad we have him.”
- Rizzo also disclosed that prospect Matt Skole tore the UCL in his left elbow, Comak tweets. Skole, who is ranked No. 4 in the Nats' system by Baseball America, will undergo Tommy John surgery and his recovery should take 3-4 months (link).